The Lord promised: Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. (Exodus 22:20)
Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation? Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.
Our Lord God called Israel out of Egypt and brought them eventually into the promised Land. This was not an easy task even if we have gotten to the idea over the years. Firstly the marvellous delivery from the clutches of Pharaoh and the miraculous passage through the Red Sea. Then all those years through the vast empty spaces of deserted nothingness. The bad lands. Wasted after the terrible destruction of the deluge. Yet for forty years the Lord sustained his people through miracles and wonders. Providing fresh water, enough daily bread and even bountiful birds and gravy. Protection from all enemies – visible and invisible. Good governance through the great and faithful prophet Moses together with his brother Aaron and sister Mirjiam. And all the time he led them on the right pathway and kept them in the ways of the truth. Revealing his law and divine precepts in the commandments and edicts of holiness. Despite the callous hearts of the Israelites, their inclination towards opposition and rebellion against the living God and his servant Moses, their propensity to go the wrong way, their obvious and ongoing disobedience, impatience and stubborn grumbling and repeated sinful rejection of God’s straightforward way and will, the triune God still persevered in his goodness and mercy, he did not deal with them as they deserved, but according to his gracious promise and decree: Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared.
The Lord our God is truly wonderful and gracious. He did not only deal with Israel in this forgiving way, but continued this favourable providence just as he had done with the patriarchs of old – leading Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but also Joseph and his brothers in ways that are truly astounding and awesome to behold – and not only in the elaborate transcript of Thomas Mann, but far better already in the clearer, less speculative and most impressive script of Moses, who was so faithfully inspired by the Holy Spirit – so that we too might read, hear and believe the great wonders of our God, who leads and guides his people through thick and thin to his destination in his own way and perfect timing.
See, the Lord did not just do that kind of thing in the times long gone by, in the days of Israel of old or before our time and living. No, the Lord is the same today as he was yesterday and will be the same tomorrow too. His promises do not suddenly loose relevance or authenticity, just because we have grown tired, wary or despondent to wait and hold out in hard times. No, the Lord still does what he did – save, deliver, lead and guide to the very goal, he has prepared for us in his grace, mercy and goodness. See, that does not mean that we’ll get there smiling and in best of shapes either. No – if he promises that in the end, he will wipe off our tears, then that means that we’ll probably get there crying, weeping and in pretty bad shape too – having born his cross all along, thus enduring hardship, hurt and possibly martyrdom too.
Just look at our Lord Jesus Christ + how he suffered and toiled patiently and obediently under the overwhelming burden of all our sins until the very end on the cross on Golgotha. He stumbled and fell. He thirsted and cried aloud. He bled and died – all for us and our salvation. He did that even though the angels of God came to serve him in the hours of his triumph and his deepest affliction. When he had valiantly resisted the devils temptations there in the desert after fasting 40 days and nights, but also when the Lord declined his repeated request: If it be possible let this cup pass by me! When his heart trembled with fear and trepidation, his sweat dropped like blood and his disciples just slept only to later flee, desert him and even renounce and betray him. The angel of God came to comfort and strengthen him. (cf Lk.22:43) Still he had to drain the cup of wrath and drink the very dregs of it – just so that we might eventually drink of the cup of salvation here and there at the great bridal feast in God’s unending glory.
In the end, Jesus Christ committed his very soul and life into the hands of his father, bowed his head and died. However that was not the end of the road for Jesus. Willing servants, friends and companions of his way took down his body from the cross, which had not been broken and smashed by the mercenaries, who wanted him dead so that they could knock off for the weekend. They took and laid him into the grave, that had never been used before – no longer counted among robbers, but befitting the victorious king and glorious triumphator: Lord and God – as the roman centurion confessed. On the 3rd day he rose triumphantly from the grave after having harrowed hell and led out the captives and made them free from death, sin and devil. The angels remain behind to enlighten the early women and the late apostles. They are no longer required to comfort the Lord. They are there to comfort his people, lead and guide them on the right way to Jesus Christ – our Lord and God: Go and meet him in Galilee, where he will be revealed to you!
The Lord himself now sits at the right hand of God, reigning with all authority in heaven and on earth given to him. He is the king of all – enthroned in the place destined and belonging to him all along. God made true all his promises just as Jesus showed those Emmaus disciples. It had to come like this! He himself descended into the deepest dungeons just to be promoted to the loftiest heights. There he has prepared a place for us as St. John records the promise of our Lord and God. It is ready and we’ll see it, when it suits him fine. Until then we hold on to his promises for he is faithful, he will surely do it and let us see, what we have here believe.
Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. Take them to heart. Put our confidence in them in both good and bad days. Repeat them especially if things look glum. Remember them and rejoice in them to be encouraged and hearted in times of need. Tell your children about it. Tell your wife, your husband, your friend and companion. These things are our life – and they bring us life too. For it is not long now anymore. Our salvation is nearer than ever before. Our Lord is coming soon and he will let us behold, what we have here believed on account of his promises, that he has given us through his Holy Word. Therefore don’t let that word slip from your mind or life. Don’t get pulled away from it. It is the word of life – and it is the only way to heaven – the place, he has prepared for you too. + Amen.
Go to Dark Gethsemane by: James Montgomery (1771-1854)
Go to dark Gethsemane,
All who fell the tempter’s power
Your Redeemer’s conflict see.
Watch with him one bitter hour;
Turn not from his griefs away;
Learn from Jesus Christ to pray.
Follow to the judgment hall,
View the Lord of life arraigned;
Oh, the wormwood and the gall!
Oh, the pangs his soul sustained!
Shun not suffering, shame, or loss;
Learn from him to bear the cross.
Calvary’s mournful mountain climb;
There, adoring at his feet,
Mark that miracle of time,
God’s own sacrifice complete.
“It is finished!” hear him cry;
Learn from Jesus Christ to die.
Early hasten to the tomb
Where they laid his breathless clay
All is solitude and gloom.
Who has taken him away?
Christ is risen! He meets our eyes.
Saviour, teach us so to rise.